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  • Kenya arrested 534 people for same-sex relationships between 2013 and 2017, according to the government.

    Kenya arrested 534 people for same-sex relationships between 2013 and 2017, according to the government. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 May 2019 (27 minutes ago)

Rights campaigners explained that due to lack of legal protections sexual minorities in Kenya are routinely abused, assaulted by mobs, raped by vigilantes or enslaved by criminals.

On Friday, the high court in Kenya unanimously elected to uphold a law banning gay sex which keeps same-sex relations punishable by almost a decade-and-a-half, according to a report from Reuters.

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“Rights cannot be trampled upon in the name of social disapproval. The Court of Appeal should revisit this ruling urgently,” New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s senior LGBT rights researcher, Neela Ghoshal, said and added that the verdict reduced Kenya’s gay people to “second-class citizenship.”

Gay rights activists wept openly after the verdict was issued while supporters of the ban cheered. 

“Kenya has missed an opportunity to take a clear stance against discrimination,” Njeri Gateru, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said.

“I believe justice will eventually prevail in Kenya, as in other parts of the world that have decriminalized same-sex conduct, but in the meantime, ordinary LGBT Kenyans will continue to pay the price for the state’s indifference to inequality.”

Meanwhile, Justice Roselyn Aburili remarked, “we find that the impugned sections are not unconstitutional, accordingly the combined petitions have no merit.” 

But, LGBT advocates, who filed the petition, challenged the judge’s statement saying the law violates the country’s 2010 constitution, which guarantees equality, dignity and privacy for all citizens.

“We will appeal. We expect that the court of appeal will overturn this erroneous decision which in our view is very biased,” one petitioner, Eric Gitari, said.

Rights campaigners explained that due to lack of legal protections sexual minorities in Kenya are routinely abused, assaulted by mobs, raped by vigilantes or enslaved by criminals.

The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has recorded more than 1,500 such attacks against LGBT Kenyans since 2014.

The East African nation also drew criticism from the U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, who said the ruling “encourages hostility and even violence against LGBT individuals.”

The court claims that gay sex clashed with broader, traditional moral values in the constitution. Kenya’s anti-homosexuality laws were first imposed by British colonizers in 1897.

Aburili added that allowing gay sex would “open the door for same-sex unions.”

Kenya arrested 534 people for same-sex relationships between 2013 and 2017, according to the government.

Same-sex relationships remain a crime in over 70 countries around the world and almost half of them in Africa.

Thirty-eight out of 55 African nations have enacted laws that make it illegal to be gay. In Somalia and South Sudan it is punishable by death. In Nigeria, it carries a 14-year prison term, and 30 years in Tanzania.

South Africa is the only African nation to have legalized gay marriage.

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